Corentin Biteau

Independent researcher @ Effective Altruism France
538 karmaJoined Seeking workWorking (6-15 years)Lyon, France



I'm living in Lyon, France. Learned about EA in 2018, found that great, digged a lot into the topic. The idea of "what in the world improves well-being or causes suffering the most, and what can we do" really influenced me a whole lot - especially when mixed with meditation that allowed me to be more active in my life.

I'm doing a lot of personal research on a whole lot of topics. I also co-wrote a book in French with a few recommendations on how to take action for a better world, and included a chapter on EA (the title is "Agir pour un Monde Durable"). I've participated in a few conferences after that, it's a good way to improve oral skills.

One of the most reliable thing I have found so far is helping animal charities : farmed animals are much more numerous than humans (and have much worse living conditions), and there absolutely is evidence that animal charities are getting some improvements (especially from The Humane League). I tried to donate a lot there. 

Long-termism could also be important, but I think that we'll hit energy limits before getting to an extinction event - I wrote an EA forum post for that here: https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/wXzc75txE5hbHqYug/the-great-energy-descent-short-version-an-important-thing-ea

How others can help me

If I can get a job in EA one day, in a position where I can analyze and synthetize important stuff, I'd be really happy!

How I can help others

I just have an interest in whatever topic sounds really important, so I have a LOT of data on a lot of topics.  These include energy, the environment, resource depletion, simple ways to understand the economy, limits to growth, why we fail to solve the sustainability issue, and how we got to that very weird specific point in history.

I also have a lot of stuff on Buddhism and meditation and on "what makes us happy" (check the Waking Up app!)


Thanks for the answer ! So if I have some friends and contacts that have mental health issue, I guess it would be relevant to provide them these kind of apps (at least in complement)? Do you have in mind some apps that would be better than others ? (Thought Saver is there I guess)

Thanks for the post. This sounds worth exploring and quite promising, especially if it works.

It's quite impressive that it may be about 60-70% as effective compared to guided therapy.

I was just wondering about one element that I think could be more clear. What kind of unguided self-help apps are you talking about? Are they already widespread? Are we talking about Thought Saver or Waking Up or something like that ? I think a little example of such an app and how it works at the beginning could provide a bit more clarity.

Thanks for the calculator.

I was wondering about the welfare part of the equation, and it's not obvious how people get their welfare estimates in the calculator, from what I see in the post.

Are we talking about the welfare of just humans ? Animals ? (Farmed or wild animals)? Artificial sentience ? How do we reconcile all of these when we're not sure today whether global welfare is net positive ?

Of course, this depends on very important questions that are hard to assess. What are the consequences of bringing wild animals suffering to our planet? Is factory farming going to continue for a long time, especially as that long-termists are very optimistic about technology replacing all forms of animal farming, where it's not so obvious? Are artificial sentience going to have lives worth living ? How are we going to impact animals on other planets ?

So overall, what should we include in the 'welfare' part of the calculator?

My prior would be that unless you check extremely frequently, this sounds like a lot of suffering. But not sure about the other options.

I'm still kind of unconvinced. If we were talking only about human populations, sure then I'd agree, most efforts seem intended to provoke good things. But when you look at other species ? I think if you look at the things we do to factory farmed animals or wild animals or animals we just harm because of pollutions or climate change or deep see mining when it starts, we'd label all of that to be bad if it were done to humans.

I'm more interested in actual track record rather than intentions. Our intentions don't match up super well with 'overall good in the world increasing'.

One important reason we might do more bad than good in the future is because animals are far more numerous than humans, and most likely dominate from a moral standpoint (besides maybe artificial sentence). Most importantly, our goals are often opposed to theirs : finding more energy, using fossil fuels, using chemicals for making goods, eating meat, making silk, clearing a forest for agriculture and cities... So as we aggregate even more energy, it's unlikely that our actions are going to be beneficial to animal's goals given our own objectives.

I am not sure this is the case?

I mean, factory farming is in itself an obvious counterexample. It's huge and growing.

I think you are putting too much value on intentions rather than consequences. A lot of harm happening in the world is the result of indifference than cruelty - most people do not actively animals to be harmed, but the most economical way to farm animals is by getting them in crowded conditions, so... 

Poor incentives and competition are important here. A lot of suffering is even natural (e.g., a deer dying of hunger or a spider trapping an insect), and sometimes just unwanted (e.g. climate change).   

Yes, "prove" is too strong here, that's not the term I should have used. And human life is not guaranteed to be net-negative.

 But I often see the view that some people assume human action in the future to be net-positive, and I felt like adding a counterpoint to that, given the large uncertainties.

About point 1, you'd first need to prove that the expected value of the future is going to be positive, something which does not sound guaranteed, especially if factory farming were to continue in the future.

Regarding point 2, note that clean meat automatically winning in the long term is really not guaranteed either:

Longtermists tend to be super optimistic that alternative proteins and cultured meat will be more efficient and cheaper, baffling people working in animal welfare.

I recommend reading that post, Optimistic longtermist would be terrible for animals.

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